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New findings support drug-free approach to stopping smoking

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A new study has found that the Allen Carr Easyway (ACE) method for stopping smoking, which emphasises a drug-free approach, may be just as effective as using specialist Stop Smoking Services.

Free NHS Stop Smoking Services in England offer the best evidenced method for quitting, using behavioural support alongside stop smoking medications, or without drugs for those who prefer. But new research published today, Thursday 23rd January 2020, in Addiction, has shown that there may be another option for those that haven’t found success with Stop Smoking Services.

The study, funded by Allen Carr’s Easyway International Ltd., required rigorous ethical review to ensure the organisation had no role in the study design, analysis or interpretation, and was overseen by an independent steering committee.

The researchers from London South Bank University and St George’s, University of London recruited 620 participants to the trial, comparing the number of people who successfully quit smoking through Stop Smoking Services with those using the ACE method. The results detected no difference in success between the two groups.

The ACE method tested consists of one group session, followed by supportive text messages and top-up sessions if required. The group sessions last around five to six hours, and involve behavioural therapy and a relaxation exercise. A trained facilitator aims to help participants recognise that smoking has no benefits and is harmful. In contrast to other quit methods, participants are allowed to smoke during the sessions.

In comparison, the Stop Smoking Service intervention involves a single 30-minute session, and up to four follow-up sessions. Participants are asked to set a quit date and the provider will work with them to find the best method to help them stop smoking. This may involve nicotine replacement therapy, other prescribed medicines, e-cigarettes, or no drugs at all. Working with trained stop smoking experts who tailor the approach based on the participant, this is the best-evidenced, gold-standard route for stopping smoking.

The results of the new study reveal that the ACE method may be as successful for some individuals, with 19% of participants in the ACE group smoke free after 26 weeks, compared to 15% in the Stop Smoking Services group.

The study also found that, of those participants smoke free at 26 weeks, 91% of the Stop Smoking Service group made use of medications or e-cigarettes, compared to only 13% in the ACE group. Further work would need to be done to understand if the reduction in drug use could make the ACE method more cost-effective.

Dr Sarah White from St George’s, who carried out the statistical analysis on the study said: “The next question to answer is to find out what works best for whom.

“The ACE method could be seen as a viable option to be used in health services, but more work is needed to find out which groups might have the most success and whether it’s cost-effective.”

Any implementation in health services would also have to address the barrier of participants smoking during the sessions, which is prohibited in the grounds of the majority of NHS trusts to protect patients.

For people looking to quit smoking, Stop Smoking Services are free to access, where available. You can find your nearest free stop smoking provider online. There is currently no free provision of the ACE method in the UK.

Published: 23 January 2020

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